God is loving and loves us too much to allow us to continue on in our self-destructive materialism. To liberate us requires violent love. That violent love erupts from a Father’s gracious heart and calls us to wake up and cry out.
- God is violent—wake up! (vv. 1-12)
Joel’s name means “God is Yahweh,” and his father’s name, Pethuel, means “sincerity of God.” Yahweh is speaking with forceful sincerity to his people whose hearts have forgotten him. When Joel describes the loss of “grain, wine, and oil,” he is saying that Israel’s way of life is totally devastated. In the Mediterranean, grain is the staple of life, wine is daily drink, and oil is essential for everything from cooking to lighting, from cleansing to skin care. God’s people were being forced to recognize that he provides these blessings. God deprives in order to restore our relationship. God is a good Father, so those he loves he disciplines. God gives and he takes away—but whether he gives or takes away, the agenda is the same: to produce loving children. Repentance brings joy and stewardship. Obedience that is worshipful and grateful causes all life to flourish as a testimony to future restoration.
- God is love—cry out! (vv. 13-20)
It is the love of God personified in Jesus Christ and prophesied by Joel that demands that sinners run to him for liberation from their bondage to materialism. It is the Lord’s passionate love for his people, described later (2:18), that must draw forth love from his people, which is the ultimate sign of Christian maturity. But the Lord does not require maturity before he saves, just a cry for mercy (2:32). In our walk with Christ, we move from orthopraxy (right behavior) to orthodoxy (right practice) to orthopathy (right ordering of what we love), as Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard said. This is not a linear process but the general way in which we come to know and apply the gospel.
- Have you ever experienced discipline from the Lord? How did you respond initially? Has God ever revealed to you the love behind his discipline?
- How is sometimes even severe discipline more loving than giving one what one wants?
- What is repentance, and what is a practical way you do or can practice it in your life?
- How is God’s love and mercy demonstrated in the way he responds to even the frailest repentance?
- With which of the three experiences of the gospel do you most identify recently (orthopraxy, orthodoxy, or orthopathy)? Why? What would it look like for you to have a more wholehearted devotion to following Christ?